For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)what is a man profited . . .?—It is not without a purpose that what may be called the argument of expediency is here brought in. Even the self-denial of Matthew 16:24 does not exclude the thought, for those who are still within the range of its influence, of what, in the long-run, will profit us most. There is a self-love which, in spite of the strained language of an exaggerated and unreal philanthropy, is ennobling and not debasing.
In exchange for his soul.—The English introduces an apparent antithesis of language (as has just been noticed) in place of the identity of the original. It would be better to keep “life” in both verses. If there is no profit in bartering even the lower life for the whole world, how much less in bartering the higher,
‘Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas!
And when that forfeiture has been incurred, what price can he then pay to buy it back again? No. “It costs more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever” (Psalm 49:8, Prayer Book version).
"To lose his own soul" means to be cast away, to be shut out from heaven, to be sent to hell. Two things are implied by Christ in these questions:
1. That they who are striving to gain the world, and are unwilling to give it up for the sake of religion, will lose their souls; and,
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?—Instead of these weighty words, which we find in Mr 8:36 also, it is thus expressed in Lu 9:25: "If he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away," or better, "If he gain the whole world, and destroy or forfeit himself." How awful is the stake as here set forth! If a man makes the present world—in its various forms of riches, honors, pleasures, and such like—the object of supreme pursuit, be it that he gains the world; yet along with it he forfeits his own soul. Not that any ever did, or ever will gain the whole world—a very small portion of it, indeed, falls to the lot of the most successful of the world's votaries—but to make the extravagant concession, that by giving himself entirely up to it, a man gains the whole world; yet, setting over against this gain the forfeiture of his soul—necessarily following the surrender of his whole heart to the world—what is he profited? But, if not the whole world, yet possibly something else may be conceived as an equivalent for the soul. Well, what is it?—"Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Thus, in language the weightiest, because the simplest, does our Lord shut up His hearers, and all who shall read these words to the end of the world, to the priceless value to every man of his own soul. In Mark and Luke (Mr 8:38; Lu 9:26) the following words are added: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words [shall be ashamed of belonging to Me, and ashamed of My Gospel] in this adulterous and sinful generation" (see on Mt 12:39), "of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels." He will render back to that man his own treatment, disowning him before the most august of all assemblies, and putting him to "shame and everlasting contempt" (Da 12:2). "O shame," exclaims Bengel, "to be put to shame before God, Christ, and angels!" The sense of shame is founded on our love of reputation, which causes instinctive aversion to what is fitted to lower it, and was given us as a preservative from all that is properly shameful. To be lost to shame is to be nearly past hope. (Zep 3:5; Jer 6:15; 3:3). But when Christ and "His words" are unpopular, the same instinctive desire to stand well with others begets that temptation to be ashamed of Him which only the expulsive power of a higher affection can effectually counteract.life Matthew 16:25, let us know that they understood it here of that essential part of man which we call the soul, in which sense it could not be understood in that verse, for it is impossible in that sense to lose our soul for Christ’s sake. Some think that it hath the same sense here as in that verse, and that our Saviour argues here from the less to the greater, thus: Men will lose any thing rather than their lives; skin for skin, and all that a man hath, for his life; and this is but reasonable, for if a man lose his life to get the world, what will the world gotten do him good? What can be a proportionable exchange or compensation to him for that? Now if you value your temporary life at that rate, how much more ought you to value your eternal being and existence! It cometh much to the same, only the sense is plainer if we take it as our translators have taken it, for otherwise part of the argument is not expressed, but left to be understood, or supplied from the next verse. So as the sense is this: Besides bodies which may be killed by persecutors, you carry about with you immortal souls of infinitely more value; and besides a temporal life, of which you are in possession, there is an eternal state, which awaits you. You are creatures ordained to an eternal existence, either in misery or in happiness. Admit you could, by pleasing yourselves, denying me, shifting the cross, declining a life according to my precepts and example, prolong your temporal life, yet what will you get by it, considering that by it you must suffer loss as to your eternal happy existence, for I shall then deny you before my Father and his angels? Can any thing you can get or save in this world be a proportionable exchange for eternal happiness?
if he shall gain the whole world; all that is precious and valuable in it; all the power, pleasures, and riches of it; if with Alexander, he had the government of the whole world, and with Solomon, all the delights of it; and was possessed with the wealth of Croesus, and Crassus,
and lose his own soul? If that should be consigned to everlasting torment and misery, be banished the divine presence, and continually feel the gnawings of the worm of conscience that never dies, and the fierceness of the fire of God's wrath, that shall never be quenched, he will have a miserable bargain of it.
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Or, "for the redemption" of it, as the Ethiopic version renders it: see Psalm 49:8. If he had the whole world to give, and would give it, it would not be a sufficient ransom for it; the redemption of an immortal soul requires a greater price than gold and silver, or any corruptible thing; nothing short of the blood and life of Christ, is a proper exchange, or ransom price for it. But in the other world there will be no redemption; the loss of a soul is irrecoverable: a soul once lost and damned, can never be retrieved. This passage is thought to be proverbial; what comes nearest to it, is the following (x).
"If a scholar dies, we never find an exchange for him; there are four things which are the ministry or service of the world, , if they are lost, they may be changed; and they are these, gold, silver, iron, and brass, Job 28:1 but if a scholar dies, , who will bring us his exchange? or an exchange for him: we lost R. Simon, "who will bring us his exchange?".''For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 16:26. Matthew 16:25, compared with Matthew 16:24, involved the thought that the earthly life must be sacrificed for sake of gaining the eternal. The reason of this thought is now brought forward.
ὠφελεῖται] represents as already present the man’s condition at the day of judgment, not an Attic future (Bleek).
τὴν δὲ ψυχ. αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ] but will have lost his soul, that is to say, by his having rendered himself unfit for eternal life, by having, therefore, lost his soul as far as the Messianic ζωή is concerned, and become liable to eternal death. ζημιωθῇ is the opposite of κερδήσῃ. It must not on this ground, and because of the ἀντάλλαγμα which follows, be explained as meaning, to sustain damage in his soul (Luther), but: animae detrimentum pati (Vulgate), comp. Herod. vii. 39: τοῦ ἑνὸς τὴν ψυχὴν ζημιώσεαι, thou wilt lose thine only one through death.
ἤ] It avails a man nothing if he, and so on, it might be that (at the judgment) he would have something to give to God with which to purchase back his lost soul (ἀντάλλαγμα, Eur. Or. 1157, frequently met with in the LXX. and Apocrypha). There exists no such means of exchange (commutationem, Vulgate), nothing which, in the sight of God and according to His holy standard, would be of such value as to serve as an ἀντάλλαγμα for the soul. “Non sufficit mundus,” Bengel. Comp. Ritschl in the Jahrb. f. D. Th. 1863, p. 234 ff.Matthew 16:26. This and the following verses suggest aids to practice of the philosophy of “dying to live”. The statement in this verse is self-evident in the sphere of the lower life. It profits not to gain the whole world if you lose your life, for you cannot enjoy your possession; a life lost cannot be recovered at any price. Jesus wishes His disciples to understand that the same law obtains in the higher life: that the soul, the spiritual life, is incommensurable with any outward possession however great, and if forfeited the loss is irrevocable. This is one of the chief texts containing Christ’s doctrine of the absolute worth of man as a moral subject. For the man who grasps it, it is easy to be a hero and face any experience. To Jesus Christ it was a self-evident truth.—ζημιωθῇ, not suffer injury to, but forfeit. Grotius says that the verb in classics has only the dative after it = mulctare morte, but Kypke and Elsner cite instances from Herod., Dion., Hal., Themis., etc., of its use with accusative.—ἀντάλλαγμα: something given in exchange. Cf. 1 Kings 21:2, Job 28:15 (Sept), a price to buy back the life lower or higher; both impossible.
 Septuagint.26. and lose his own soul] The Greek word translated “life” in the preceding verse is here translated “soul,” which is life in its highest phase.Matthew 16:26. Τὸν κόσμον ὅλον, the whole world) No one has ever yet gained the whole world; yet, if he should gain it, what would it profit him?—ψυχὴν, soul) True wisdom refers everything to the interest of the soul; false, to that of the body.—τί δώσει, what shall he give?) The world is not enough.—ἀντάλλαγμα, as an equivalent, lat. redhostimentum) which ought not to be of less value than the soul for which it is given.
 The whole world is not enough as a ransom to redeem the one soul of even one man. But what a vast multitude, in truth, Christ redeemed by His own blood, namely, the whole world!—V. g.Verse 26. - For what is a man (shall a man be) profited? This verse explains the paradox concerning loss and gain in the previous verse. It is probably intended as a reminiscence of Psalm 49:7, 8. Wordsworth notes that it is quoted by Ignatius, 'Ep. ad Romans,' 6; but it is probably an early interpolation there. The whole world. It is but a trifle of the whole world, with its riches, honours, pleasures, which the most successful man can obtain; but granted it all lay at his feet, how would it repay him for the loss of everlasting life? Lose his own soul (life) (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ). The phrase means "suffer loss in respect of," equivalent to "forfeit," as in Luke 9:25. "Life" here is the higher life, the life in God. The Vulgate renders, Animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur. In exchange; ἀνταλλαγμα: Vulgate, commutationem; as an equivalent for his life. Or, it may be, to purchase back his life. "Again, he dwells upon the same point. 'What? hast thou another soul to give for this soul?' saith he. 'Why, shouldst thou lose money, thou wilt be able to give other money;or be it house, or slaves, or any other kinds of possession; but for thy soul, if thou lose it, thou wilt have no other soul to give: yea, though thou hadst the world, though thou wast king of the whole earth, thou wouldst not be able, by paying down all earthly goods, together wits the earth itself, to redeem even one soul" (Chrys.,' Hom.,' 55). The value of the soul is often expressed in classical adages.
Ψυχῆς γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστι τιμιώρερον.
"Naught is of higher value than the soul."
Οὑ γὰρ τι ψυχῆς πέλει ἄνδρασι φίλτερον ἄλλο
"Naught unto men is dearer than the life." So Homer, 'Iliad,' 9:401-
"For not the stores which Troy, they say, contained
In peaceful times, ere came the sons of Greece,
Nor all the treasures which Apollo's shrine,
The archer-god, in rock built Pythos holds,
May weigh with life...
But when the breath of man hath passed his lips,
Nor strength nor foray can the loss repair."
Note that both words are in the past (aorist) tense: "if he may have gained or lost. The Lord looks back to the details of each life as the factors of the final sum of gain or loss. For lose, Rev. gives forfeit. The verb in the active voice means to cause loss or damage. Often in the classics, of fining or mulcting in a sum of money. Compare 2 Corinthians 7:9.
Rev., life, with soul in margin. This will be specially considered in the discussion of the psychological terms in the Epistles.
In exchange (ἀντάλλαγμα)
Lit., as an exchange.
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